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C-USA Fearless Predictions, Sept. 29, Part 2
Posted Sep 27, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 5 Conference USA Games, Part 2

Conference USA

East  UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

CUSA Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 15Sept. 22
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 32-7 ... ATS: 22-11

Conference USA Week Five Predictions, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, Sept. 29

UL Lafayette (0-4) at UCF (2-1)  6:00 PM 
Why to watch: Three games into the 2007 season, UCF looks like a completely different program than the one that went 4-8 last season.  In fact, after upsetting NC State, nearly doing the same to Texas, and obliterating Memphis, the Knights are on the verge of becoming a co-favorite with Southern Miss to win the league’s Eastern Division.  In the team’s 56-point explosion last Saturday, backup QB Michael Greco opened eyes, going 11-of-12 for 151 yards while running 10 times for 77 yards and two scores.  Although Kyle Israel remains the starter, George O’Leary is going to find ways to weave his new weapon into the offensive gameplan.  UL-Lafayette hung with South Carolina in a 28-14 opening day loss, but it’s been all downhill since for Ricky Bustle’s kids.  The Cajuns have yet to reach the win column in 2007, despite the fact that I-AA McNeese State is on the schedule.
Why UL-Lafayette might win: Run, run, run.  The Cajuns plan to keep the ball on the ground and keep an improving UCF offense standing on the sidelines.  The nation’s No. 6 running game is getting plenty of production from QB Michael Desormeaux and RB Tyrell Fenroy, who is hoping to return from an ankle injury.  If Fenroy can’t go, Bustle is very comfortable putting the ball in the hands of Deon Wallace and Jason Chery, who combined for 132 yards and two scores on just 13 carries last week.  The Knights have been so-so versus the run this month, allowing 4.5 yards a carry over the last two weeks.
Why UCF might win: Run, run, run.  The Knights will keep it on the ground as well with the nation’s third-leading rusher, Kevin Smith.  He’ll get absolutely no resistance from a UL-Lafayette defense that’s given up at least 28 points in every game, and has been gutted the last two weeks for more than 270 yards on the ground by McNeese State and Troy.  The UCF line, bolstered by tackles Patrick Brown and Josh Sitton, has allowed only three sacks this year, and will dominate at the point of attack.
Who to watch: A former recruit of NC State, Greco is a very intriguing story that bears a close watch in the coming weeks.  A big, strong lefty that conjures up images of a poor-man’s Tim Tebow, he’s one of the Knights’ best all-around athletes and the type of sparkplug that’s going to be hard to keep off the field.
What will happen: While UL-Lafayette is reeling, UCF is rolling, especially in its new home, Bright House Networks Stadium.  The Knights will own the line of scrimmage, springing Smith for 200 yards and a couple of scores.
CFN Prediction: UCF 48 … UL Lafayette 21 ... Line: UCF -21.5 
Must See Rating: (5 Ken Burns' The War - 1 The Big Bang Theory) ...

East Carolina (1-3) at Houston (2-1)  7:00 PM ESPN
Why to watch
: It’s not even October, yet East Carolina is already faced with a must-win situation this week in Houston.  A 1-3 start, most notably a home loss to Southern Miss, has put the Pirates’ back against the wall and in need of an upset, or else a once-promising season could begin to slip away.  Unlike the opener at Virginia Tech, ECU was never competitive in last weekend’s 48-7 loss at West Virginia.  Houston, on the other hand, is a relieved bunch this week after erasing a 14-point second-half deficit to fend off Colorado State’s upset bid.  More than just an emotional victory, the Cougars appear to have found their quarterback of the future.  After using both Blake Joseph and Case Keenum this month, Keenum emerged last week, going 18-of-22 for 197 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 57 yards and two more scores to spark the comeback.  Keenum is just a redshirt freshman, giving him plenty of time to develop in Art Briles’ complex offensive system.
Why East Carolina might win: West Virginia may have skewed the numbers last week, but East Carolina has one of the league’s top defenses, particularly against the run.  Before Morgantown, the Pirates were allowing just over 80 yards a game on the ground, and were getting pressure on the quarterback with an experienced front seven.  They’ll keep RB Anthony Alridge from breaking the game open and flush Keenum, who’s still prone to making rookie mistakes.  Don’t be surprised to see more of backup QB Rob Kass, a strong-armed pocket passer that can do damage to a Houston pass defense that was dented last week by Ram Caleb Hanie.
Why Houston might win: The East Carolina defense can stop the run, but the pass defense is a whole other story.  This was a concern in August that has not been addressed.  The Pirates are 110th nationally in pass efficiency defense, giving up 257 yards a game through the air and allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just under 70% of their passes.  In last week’s loss to West Virginia, Patrick White misfired just three times, going 22-of-25.  If given time, Keenum will further his education, picking apart the ECU defense by playing catch with gifted receivers Donnie Avery and Jeron Harvey.
Who to watch: In order to keep East Carolina RB Chris Johnson from breaking free for big chunks of yardage, Houston needs NT Tate Stewart to keep playing like he wants to be on the all-league team.  Stewart has been a force in the middle for the Cougars this year, occupying blockers and often blowing up running plays in the backfield.
What will happen: East Carolina isn’t as bad as its record might indicate, and will prove it by hanging with Houston for four quarters.  The Cougars, however, will survive another close game with Keenum scampering for the game-winner.
CFN Prediction: Houston 31 … East Carolina 26 ... Line: Houston -10 
Must See Rating: (5 Ken Burns' The War - 1 The Big Bang Theory) ... 2

UAB (1-2) at Tulsa (2-1)
  7:00 PM
Why to watch
: East meets West, and least meets best.  Maybe.  While UAB has the appearance of a Conference USA bottom dweller, Tulsa has its sights set firmly on a league championship, a realistic goal if it plug holes in a leaky defense.  It’s a good thing the Golden Hurricane installed a high-powered passing attack for 2007, because the program will need to win plenty of shootouts this fall.  While it was bombarded by Oklahoma last Friday night, the goal of finishing the season at the Liberty Bowl has not changed.  The Blazers better savor their recent 22-0 win over Alcorn State because they may not enjoy the sweet taste of victory for some time.  First-year head coach Neil Calloway has turned the program upside and injected new faces everywhere, moves that won’t bring noticeable dividends until at least 2008.
Why UAB might win: The way the Tulsa defense has performed the last two weeks against BYU and Oklahoma, there’s no guarantee it can slow down anyone these days.  In those games, the Hurricane gave up 15 touchdowns and well over 1,200 yards, staggering numbers regardless of the opposition.  And as if things couldn’t get any worse, two of the team’s defensive backs, Randy Duncan and Roy Roberts, may be scratches because of injuries.  The Blazer offense has not been sharp in 2007, but it may not have to be to move the ball on this Hurricane defense Saturday night.  This is the same UAB team that almost shocked Florida State two weeks ago, so beating Tulsa is not out of reach.
Why Tulsa might win: With Paul Smith at the controls, the Hurricane’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense has really begun to hum.  Back-to-back 350-yard passing days have Tulsa up to No. 12 in the country in total offense and 23rd in scoring.  It’s going to get better each week, especially against a young UAB defense that notched one sack in its first two games and has already permitted a ton of long plays through the air.  Even if the Blazers move the ball on Tulsa between the 20s, they’ll likely stall in the red zone, as they did a half-dozen times in the Alcorn State game.
Who to watch: Hard as it is to believe, Smith’s favorite receiver through three games has actually been his fullback, true freshman Charles Clay.  A gifted all-around athlete with great hands, he leads Conference USA with 16 catches for 260 yards and three touchdowns.  As valuable as Clay has been to the Tulsa offense, it couldn’t hurt if the receivers, such as Dion Tolliver and Jesse Meyer, started making a few more plays downfield.
What will happen: As bad as the Tulsa defense has played, part of its collapse had to do with playing BYU and Oklahoma.  UAB won’t have nearly the same success, or be able to keep pace with a Hurricane offense that’s about to hit its stride.
CFN Prediction
: Tulsa 45 … UAB 20 ... Line: Tulsa -19 
Must See Rating: (5 Ken Burns' The War - 1 The Big Bang Theory) ... 1.5

Conference USA Week Five Predictions, Part 1